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Shirk, Shirk, Shirk!

Calligraphy of 'Ya Ali'At the holy sites of Islam, on satellite television, and, even more notoriously, on websites like YouTube, the above statements may remind the reader of numerous attacks that are launched against the followers of Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them). In Chapter Seven of Adl al-Ilahi (Divine Justice) by Martyr Murtadha Mutahhari, the topic of Shafa’at (intercession) is discussed in detail. Martyr Mutahhari mentions two ways that intercession can be understood: one which is denied by verses from the Holy Qur’an, and another which is supported by verses from the Holy Qur’an.

Calligraphy of 'Ya Ali'“What is this Shafa’at (intercession) you Shia always talk about?! Or, better yet, what is this Tawassul (seeking help) you do all the time?! ‘Oh Ali!’ you proudly exclaim! Why not ‘Oh Allah!’ Clearly this is blatant Shirk Shirk, Shirk, Shirk!”

At the holy sites of Islam, on satellite television, and, even more notoriously, on websites like YouTube, the above statements may remind the reader of numerous attacks that are launched against the followers of Ahlul Bayt (peace be upon them).

Dear reader, whether you are an offended believer, a riled up critic, or simply someone who wants to understand the concepts mentioned in a more comprehensive fashion, let’s agree to put aside the stereotypes and discuss academically.

In Chapter Seven of Adl al-Ilahi (Divine Justice) by Martyr Murtadha Mutahhari, the topic of Shafa’at (intercession) is discussed in detail. Martyr Mutahhari mentions two ways that intercession can be understood: one which is denied by verses from the Holy Qur’an, and another which is supported by verses from the Holy Qur’an.

The Un-Islamic Intercession

The concept of intercession which is unacceptable in Islam is the type which would involve “breaking the rules”. For example, in our daily lives, one may refer to a person “with connections” to “intercede” on his/her behalf, essentially going against the law.

The reason behind such a concept of intercession would be because of some type of imperfection or injustice in the social system. When it comes to the perfect system of existence, to believe that the Ahlul Bayt can break the rules which Allah has set or that they can “change Allah’s will” is absolutely unacceptable. This is the concept of intercession which is condemned in the Holy Qur’an: “And guard yourselves against a day when no soul will in aught avail another, nor will intercession be accepted from it, nor will compensation be received from it, nor will they be helped.” (2:48)

In other words, on that day, there will be no way to escape the justice of Allah, no way to break the rules – contrary to what was practiced in the social system of this world. The perfect system which Allah has set forth in creation and legislation has no room for the mentioned concept of intercession.

Video Feature: Sayed Ammar Nakshawani – Is Intercession a Form of Shirk? – Runtime 01:08:11

The Islamic Intercession

However, the concept of intercession which is indeed part of Allah’s perfect system is of a higher nature. This concept of intercession – the Islamic concept – is embedded within the perfect system and cannot be separated from it.

The Islamic concept of intercession can be understood as two types:

1) The “Intercession of Deeds” and 2) The “Intercession of Mercy” (Forgiveness).

The Intercession of Deeds

The deeds that we commit in this world will be seen in some shape or form in the next world. “So, the one who has done an atom’s weight of good shall see it. And the one who has done an atom’s weight of evil shall see it.” (Qur’an 99:7-8)

With further reflection, one realizes that even the “relation” or “connections” between deeds shall also be seen. For instance, when one person is the apparent cause for the guidance of another individual, the “relation” or “connection” of guidance between the two will be seen on the Day of Judgment in the form of “one who is leading and another who is led.”

The Holy Qur’an states, “On the day when we shall call every people by their Imam (leader)” (Israa:71). So, the person being led and the leader will be resurrected together. If the leader’s deeds take him/her to heaven, then the one who followed such a leader’s actions and examples would also follow suit.

Therefore, when Muslims abide by the teachings of Ahlul Bayt, they receive “Intercession of Deeds” in the highest of forms. Note that this is intrinsic to the system which Allah encompasses indefinitely.

The Intercession of Mercy (Forgiveness)

This type of intercession requires an understanding of how Allah the Exalted expresses His Mercy in the perfect system of existence.

Allah has created the perfect system in such a way that each level of existence is the cause for the level below it. Consequently, each level is an “intermediate” through which Allah expresses His ever-flowing Mercy to the next level. The expression of Allah’s mercy is endless, and at each level, Allah’s mercy is expressed to the extent which that specific level “can handle”.

Allah has made clear to us in the Holy Qur’an that our beliefs and deeds affect, whether or not we are deprived from the mercy (forgiveness) that emanates from Him. Shirk (ascribing a partner to Allah) is one thing which can seriously hinder a person’s “mercy-receptivity”.

Allah the Exalted, says, “Indeed, Allah does not forgive that partners should be ascribed to Him, and He forgives besides that to whom He wills.” (4:117)

This type of intercession represents the dependent causes – which Allah has caused – and how Allah expresses His mercy to the rest of creation through those causes. In the end, the Holy Qur’an sums it up, ‘Say: for Allah is the entirety of intercession” (39:44). Indeed, Allah is the Ultimate Cause and His absoluteness sustains existence in every way.

Tawassul (Seeking Help)

As for Tawassul, after getting a better understanding of the nature of Allah’s system, it can be deduced that there are physical as well as non-physical intermediates between Allah and those in the Dunya (lowest world).

Allah says in the Holy Qur’an, “Oh you who believe: be aware of Allah and seek to Him the Waseela (intermediate to reach Him)” (5:35). The verse obviously commands the believers to seek intermediates to reach Allah. Why? Because He made the perfect system, and He knows that we reach our perfection by utilizing the system appropriately. Among these “intermediates” are those Allah has chosen to guide us, such as the greatest of Allah’s Creation, Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family).

“And if they had – after having done injustice to themselves – come to you (Muhammad) and asked Allah for forgiveness, and the Messenger then would ask Allah to forgive them, they would have found that Allah is Oft-Returning (to Mercy), Merciful” (4:64).

Shirk, Shirk, Shirk?

When an aware believer says “Oh Ali!” (s)he is not truly seeking Imam Ali (peace be upon him). Rather, the believer seeks Allah, and because Allah has commanded the believer to seek Him through the chosen intermediates, the believer does not hesitate to do so.

“So what? Are you saying that calling out ‘Oh Allah!’ is not sufficient?!” No…but one cannot deny that Allah has commanded us to seek Him in a specific way, i.e. via these intermediates.

If one calls out “Oh Ali!” thinking that Imam Ali (peace be upon him) can independently do anything for the person, it is definitely Shirk. Similarly, if one knowingly calls out “Oh Allah!” without seeking Him through the appropriate means –at heart – then such a call cannot be considered true obedience to the Wisest of Planners.

A Point of Reflection

“Alright, intercession and Tawassul sound reasonable now. But why does Allah choose to do things in such a way? Why does Allah set up such a system?”

In truth, the philosophical answer to this question is understood from previous sections of the book by Martyr Mutahhari. Allah, the All-Wise and All-Perfect, only chooses – with His absolute knowledge and wisdom – to create the best system. Let’s put it this way: Allah, in His infinite knowledge, knows which system is the most perfect (in every aspect). Because He is the All-Wise, He only wills such a system into existence.

If we take a step back and start from the practical level, we see that Allah tells us to seek Him through designated intercessors (which are known by most people in the historical context). When we reflect on this fact, we can infer that Allah wants us to recognize and appreciate the importance and greatness of such individuals within this perfect system of existence – beyond the physical sense.

Qur’an, narrations, and logical deduction give more insight into how this importance is manifested. But, the following phrase from Hadith al-Kisa (the Event of the Cloak) may serve to spark the reader’s interest: “Verily, I have not created the erected sky, the stretched earth, the illuminated moon, the bright sun, the rotating heavens, the flowing seas and the sailing ships but for the love of these Five lying under the cloak….”

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  • afghangirl

    great article ! thank you, now I can address some of the questions presented to me by a sister.

  • Mujtaba

    As I was reading the Quran, I got astonished by the verse 2:48. But now this article has cleared each and every question in my mind. This artice sounds quite sensible and easy to understand.

    Thank You a lot
    May Allah bless You

  • minimadmonkey

    very nice and concise. Is the book available online, does anyone have a link to it if it is?

  • watchyourtongue

    Who do you think you are? Before you go speaking about Ali, how about you find out he who he is? He is the husband of the Prophet’s daughter! He was the
    first muslim! And he was a child!:sad::sad::sad:

  • Abid

    Some nice points but….The Prophet and Ali told us to call out to ALLAH, not to them!

  • also known as .

    Actually, you’re wrong. Allah discusses the issue of how He is approached (wasilah) and Ahlul-Bait themselves refer to their intercession in Quran. They are closer to Allah than we are and we believe they are alive, so we ask them to ask Allah to bless us. We can also pray directly to Allah.

    Either way, we believe Allah is the one who makes blessings happen ultimately, not the Prophet and his family (peace be upon all of them). 8)

  • also known as .

    It should say that Allah discusses the issue of how He is approached (wasilah) in the Quran. Of course Ahlul Bait do not refer to themselves in Quran, they and the topic of intercession are referred to by Allah.

    I think I need a nap! 🙂

  • salim

    Very beautifully explained article,I would add one more thing here to the explanation given,the leader of the angel azazil was asked by Allah to bow before Hazrat Adam,but azazil in his pride and knowledge given to him by Allah that you cannot bow before anyone else than Allah refused, technically he was right but did not realized that bowing before Adam was bowing to allah, and I see this problem with many sect in Islam they bow before Allah but do not understand the status of hazrat ali.

  • Muslim

    Some sections from Nahjul Balagha on the importance of praying to Allah سبحانه وتعالى, and Him alone, with no need for intercession (in prayer).

    We should NEVER say Ya Ali, we should ONLY call on ALLAH and say Ya Allah.

    Let me just start by quoting the following verses from the Qur’an, in order to get some context for some of the quotes.

    And when My servants ask you concerning Me, then surely I am very near; I answer the prayer of the suppliant when he calls on Me, so they should answer My call and believe in Me that they may walk in the right way. [Qur’an 2:186, Shakir]

    O you who believe! be careful of (your duty to) Allah and seek means of nearness to Him and strive hard in His way that you may be successful. [Qur’an 5:35, Shakir]

    There are many times Imam Ali says call only on Allah….these comment posts do not allow space to list them all but I will list one after another

    Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 109

    The best means by which seekers of nearness to Allah, the Glorified, the Exalted, seek nearness, is the belief in Him and His Prophet, fighting in His cause, for it is the high pinnacle of Islam, and (to believe) in the kalimatu’l-‘ikhlas (the expression of Divine purification) for it is just nature and the establishment of prayer for it is (the basis of) community, payment of zakat (Islamic tax) for it is a compulsory obligation, fasting for the month of Ramadan for it is the shield against chastisement, the performance of hajj of the House of Allah (i. e . Ka`bah) and its `umrah (other than annual visit) for these two acts banish poverty and wash away sins, regard for kinship for it increases wealth and length of life, to giving alms secretly for it covers shortcomings, giving alms openly for it protects against a bad death and extending benefits (to people) for it saves from positions of disgrace.

  • Muslim

    Nahjul Balagha, Sermon 198

    Pledge yourself with prayer and remain steady on it; offer prayer as much as possible and seek nearness (of Allah) through it, because it is, (imposed) upon the believers as (a) timed ordinance (Qur’an 4:103). Have you not heard the reply of the people of Hell when they were asked: What hath brought you into the hell? They shall say: We were not of those who offered the regular prayers (to Allah)! (Qur’an, 74:42-43). Certainly, prayer drops out sins like the dropping of leaves (of trees), and removes them as ropes are removed from the necks of cattle. The Messenger of Allah – the peace and blessing of Allah he upon him and his descendants – likened it to a hot bath situated at the door of a person who bathes in it five times a day. Will then any dirt remain on him?

  • Muslim

    Nahjul Balagha, Saying 134

    Anyone who has been granted four attributes will not be deprived of their (four) effects; one who prays to Allah and implores to Him will not be deprived of granting of his prayers; one who repents for his thoughts and deeds will not be refused acceptance of the repentance; one who has atoned for his sins will not be debarred from salvation and one who thanks Allah for the Blessings and Bounties will not be denied the increase in them. The truth of these facts is attested by the Holy Qur’an As far as prayers are concerned He says Pray to Me and I shall accept your prayers. About repentance He says: Whoever has done a bad deed or has indulged in sin and then repents and asks for His forgiveness will find Allah most Forgiving and Merciful. About being thankful He says if you are thankful for what you are given, I shall increase My Bounties and Blessings. About atonement of sin He says Allah accepts the repentance of those who have ignorantly committed vice and then soon repent for it, Allah accepts such repentance’s, He is Wise and Omniscient.

  • Muslim

    Nahjul Balagha, Letter 31

    Develop the habit of patience against sufferings, calamities and adversities. This virtue of patience is one of the highest values of morality and nobility of character and it is the best habit which one can develop. Trust in Allah and let your mind seek His protection in every calamity and suffering because you will thus entrust yourself and your affairs to the Best Trustee and to the Mightiest Guardian. Do not seek help or protection from anybody but Allah. Reserve your prayers, your requests, your solicitations, your supplications, and your entreaties to Him and Him alone because to grant, to give, to confer and to bestow, as well as to withhold, to deprive, to refuse, and to debar, lies only in His Power. Ask as much of His Blessings and seek as much of His Guidance as you can.


    Realize this truth, my son, that the Lord who owns and holds the treasures of Paradise and the earth has given you permission to ask and beg for them and He has promised to grant your prayers. He has told you to pray for His Favours that they may be granted to you and to ask for His Blessings that they may be bestowed upon you. He has not appointed guards to prevent your prayers reaching Him. Nor is there any need for anybody to intercede before Him on your behalf.

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